Historic Berlin Company Sold – W.J. Cowee’s Assets Bought By Georgia Group
by David Flint
W.J. Cowee LLC, the world’s leading manufacturer of wooden floral picks and plant stakes, has announced the sale of most of its assets to the Garcia Group, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia.
According to Cowee President and CEO Brian E. Suslak, almost all of the company assets have now been sold to a number of strategic buyers, with the majority of them being sold to the Garcia Group. The Garcia Group will continue to market all of the W.J. Cowee products, including floral picks, plant stakes and Designer Stones. Cowee has now ceased production, and most of the employees have been laid off with only a few still carrying out office functions.
“When we began to explore a sale, we decided we would only select a company that would maintain our company’s long tradition of product quality,” said Suslak. “Garcia Group, Inc. made it clear that maintaining product quality would be their top priority. In fact, they were very keen to acquire the actual winding machines that have been used for so long as part of our pick manufacturing process.”
Pete Garcia., founder of the Garcia Group, said, “W.J. Cowee products are legendary throughout the floral industry for their tradition of superior quality. We’re honored to be in a position to carry forth this tradition and continue to provide the outstanding line of Cowee products to floral industry professionals.”
“With the addition of Cowee picks, stakes and other accessories, the Garcia Group continues to increase its diversified offering to floral industry wholesalers. This was a strategic opportunity for us,” said Garcia. “Our company is committed to building a line of world class products to meet the needs of world class floral designers.
“Under Brian Suslak’s leadership, W.J. Cowee has been recognized for its commitment to sustainable forestry, environmental responsibility and community service. The new owner is also equally committed to promoting those goals.”
Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Garcia Group, Inc. is affiliated with Pete Garcia Company, the nation’s leading distributor of wholesale floral supplies. The company owns and operates FloraMart®, which advertises itself as “Simply The Best Place in The World to Buy Florists Supplies”®.
The “Cowee Pick,” invented in Berlin by Wilson Judson Cowee over a century ago, is an everyday staple in floral design. The company produced more than quarter of a billion picks per year for domestic and international distribution.
Declining to say that the company was actually shutting down, Suslak said, “We are considering other employment opportunities for some of our people in potential future endeavors.” He added that he would, “Readily look at this labor market again as it contains an untapped labor resource that can meet any number of objectives. Over the years I have been extremely impressed with the wonderful work ethic and loyalty of our labor force. Their dedication, initiative and talent is incomparable, and they would be a real asset for any prospective employer in this region.”
Asked why Berlin could not sell chopsticks – or floral picks – to China, as has been reported recently about a small company in Americus, Georgia, Suslak stated, “Rising costs for commodities, transportation and energy, combined with an increasing scarcity of certain raw materials, could create the spark that enables US-based manufacturers to revisit their global sourcing and manufacturing strategies. It is not inconceivable that a combination of these factors, as well as others, could help companies re-invigorate their US-based manufacturing operations and by doing so, allow greater opportunities to export to other regions a wider range of products that were previously not economically justifiable to do so.
“To garner the greatest chance of success, it’s critical that a wide range of policies, such as international trade, are synced-up between the private sector and government. If this is done, and done soon, then we in New York and other areas in the United States could be well positioned to take advantage of the substantial changes now occurring in international commerce. Under these conditions, meaningful job creation would ensue in a number of different industries.”
Berlin Town Supervisor Robert Jaeger said it’s always sad when the Town loses a business but without more information he could not comment on the particular situation with W.J. Cowee.
Tara Cinney-Fisher, General Manager of Hoosick River Hardwoods and former General Manager of W.J. Cowee, Inc. from which Suslak’s company was split off in 2004, said that as a lifetime resident of Berlin she was disappointed to hear of the end of the Cowee company and was concerned about employees who had been employed there for so many years. On the other hand, she was happy to hear that the Cowee floral picks would continue to be produced by the Garcia company. She wished them and the laid off Berlin employees the best of luck.
With the departure of Suslak’s company, Cinney-Fisher said that the two buildings they leased with a bit more than 35,000 square feet of factory, warehouse and office space would now be available for some other use. Whether Hoosick River Hardwoods will use the space for expansion or offer it for lease has not yet been decided.
What The Heck Is A Floral Pick?